Monthly Archives: November 2011

Poppycock: A Family Favourite Recipe

This week marks the second anniversary of my Dad’s passing so I’ve been thinking about him a lot. And thoughts of Dad always lead me to memories of his sweet tooth, which he kindly passed down to his kids. Inspired by Myndi Shafer’s recent blog, and in honour of my Dad’s memory, I’d like to share with you my recipe for Poppycock, which I used to give to him every Christmas.

Sheila’s Poppycock Recipe

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup whole un-blanched almonds

8 cups popped popcorn

1 1/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup margarine

1/2 cup golden corn syrup

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread pecans and almonds on an ungreased cookie sheet and toast lightly. In a very large unbuttered bowl, mix nuts and popcorn together.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, margarine, corn syrup and cream of tartar. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water, approximately four minutes. Note: if you like your poppycock less chewy, then cook until the mixture forms a hard ball when dropped into cold water, approximately five minutes.

Remove from stove and stir in the soda and vanilla. Be careful because the addition of the soda makes the mixture foam up.

Pour over the popcorn and nut mix. With a wooden spoon, stir until evenly coated. Leave in bowl until the poppycock is partially cooled but make sure you stir it once in a while to keep the mixture from forming into one hard ball.

When the popcorn and nuts have cooled some, dump it on to the countertop or on large cookie sheets and continue to stir occasionally until fully cooled. I usually leave it out overnight and every time I walk by, I stir it to break it apart. Someone will no doubt sneak a piece or two but that’s okay because it’s easy to make a second batch.

This makes a wonderful Christmas gift. I like to put it into jars and tins to give to family and friends. Enjoy!

My Parenting Fun Continues…

My fourteen-year-old son recently texted me while on a school trip with his classmates and asked me to stop texting him. He’d been gone for two days and I’d texted him a handful of times asking those probing questions that parents ask like, “Where are you now?” When I asked him why I should stop texting him, he answered that I was annoying him.

When he got home, his father and I took his phone away and I told him he’d get it back when he learned to treat me with respect. Oh, and I was done doing all the annoying things I do for him every day.

He now wakes up with an alarm instead of me rubbing his back. He makes his own breakfast (I do still slip a Power Bar into his book bag or else the kid would starve). I’ve stopped annoying him by doing his laundry. We had a lesson with both the washer and dryer that included many eye rolls and frustrated huffs of impatience. He even asked when he was getting his phone back and when he could stop doing laundry (his first load was still in the wash).

Needless to say, he still doesn’t have his phone and he’s still doing his laundry.

Never would I have treated my parents with the kind of disrespect that he treats me. My husband would never have been so bold with his parents, and he’s pretty darn bold. Somewhere along the line, our son has lost complete respect for us. My friends say it’s because he’s a teenager and he’ll grow out of it. Unfortunately for him, I’m not patient enough to wait until he grows out of it. As a matter of fact, he can do his laundry from now until he leaves for college if his attitude doesn’t improve.

The thing I don’t understand is that I don’t expect him to lavish me with praise for preparing his food, doing his laundry, and being at his beck and call 24/7. I never have. I’m simply trying to raise a self-sufficient, happy citizen who will contribute to society. If he does a few years of laundry along the way, his future wife can thank me with grandchildren I intend to spoil rotten and then return to his parents. Should he be scared that I’m already plotting revenge? Yes, he absolutely should.

So as Thanksgiving comes to an end and the kids head back to school with visions of Christmas break on their minds, I’m wondering what the rest of you who have raised teenagers recommend. Should I lighten up because he’s a teenager or give my wayward son more chores?

Where Did Thanksgiving Go?

“Black Friday, black Friday, everybody loves black Friday!”

Thanks to Kohl’s Department Stores, I can’t get that obnoxious little ditty out of my head.  As if I needed another reminder that today is the official start of the holiday shopping season. Yep, only 30 shopping days left.  Perhaps you’re one of the estimated 152 million people who’ve already been shopping this morning. Or last night. Maybe, you’ve got all your shopping done.  Yes, I know there are those people out there.  One in particular will call me this weekend to let me know of her superior, Martha Stewart like, shopping skills.

Except this year, I’m not going to let it get to me.  I’m taking a stand.  I’m clinging to the last vestiges of Thanksgiving. You know, the actual holiday we celebrated this weekend.

When did we lose Thanksgiving?  It wasn’t long ago the last Thursday in November was a restful day when family gathered to eat too much, drink too much, and watch too much football. (Note to husband:  I know you think there can never be too much football, but this post is geared toward women readers.)  Yep, Thanksgiving Day was always the boring, restful, reprieve before the frantic holiday season.

Now, the Thanksgiving holiday is simply a time to fill our bellies and plan our strategy for late night shopping runs.  We comb through ad circulars while stuffing the turkey.  We ready the car, not for the long trip home from Grandma’s, but to fill it with gifts. We nap after dinner, not because we’ve overindulged, but to ready ourselves for the melee sure to follow in a discount store parking lot later in the evening.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good bargain as well as the next gal.  I’m just not willing to get out of my pjs to get one.  Sorry kids. Nope, you won’t get me out among those crowds, especially when OSHA has to issue warnings to retailers to protect their employees from hordes of overzealous shoppers.  I’ll sit (or sleep) this one out, thank you very much.

Will I miss the deals?  Hardly.  Many retailers have begun to offer Black Friday prices BEFORE Thanksgiving.  In fact, you can shop on Thanksgiving Day if you want—22 million folks did last year. Forget about parades with hot air balloons and marching bands.  Forget about the tryptophan daze of a turkey dinner. Nope, all of that is relegated to second place when it comes to bargain hunting.  Soon, folks will simply snap up their turkey and sweet potatoes at a mall food court so as not to miss a good deal.

Oh wait—that’s already happening!  Bass Pro Shop was open all day yesterday, treating customers to turkey they’d deep fried out in the parking lot.  (Note to husband:  If you had gone—even for a little while—you’d be eating your Thanksgiving dinner there for the rest of your life.)  Walmart and several other discount stores were open yesterday as well.

And I think that’s kind of sad.

If you were out there among the millions shopping already this weekend, l hope you got everything you were looking for.  I hope the deals were outstanding.  As for me, I’m sleeping in and enjoying my post-Thanksgiving breakfast of cranberry pancakes with a side of leftover apple pie. For dessert, I’m going to enjoy George Clooney in The Descendants.  Tomorrow I’ll take advantage of Small Business Saturday and pick up some gifts. Happy Black Friday!  Shop til you drop!

How about you?  Do you miss the old fashioned Thanksgiving? What was the best deal you found out there?

Surprise Me!!

That is what I like at Christmas.

To be surprised!

Don’t you?  I mean, you know that fantastical wonderment on our kids’ faces when they open a present and they see what it is?  Now go back further…remember when that was you?  Was that last year…or was that a few decades back?

I ask that because I know my family.  I will drop hints.  I will more than drop them, I will hand deliver them.  I will take my husband by the arm and point at the desired item and say, “that would be perfect”.  Yet basically, it will come down to December 21 or 22, and my husband and kids will huddle up and then come tell me we all need to go out to eat.  And then maybe to the mall.  And then as we walk around the mall, I’ll say “oh, that’s cool,” about something (because I’m trained really well in this game) and then I’ll keep walking while one or more of my party subtlely disappears for a bit and shows up later with a mysterious bag.

Other than that, when I’m doing MY shopping, when I see something I want, I get it, and put it in my own stocking, because I’m the stocking stuffer and who else is going to do it?  Two years ago, I did actually just hand over a list and said “Go.”   They actually did, and it was the best Christmas ever.  I got candles and a ring and flavored coffee and it was so much fun!  Last year, it went back to the norm…and I’m thinking I need to stir the pot again!  LOL.

I get so much enjoyment from surprising my family with the perfect gifts.  My kids are old, so they know some things that are coming, but I always try to surprise them with something.  Even my hubby.  It’s part of the fun!  So, what’s wrong with wanting a little of that magic for yourself…I ask?

Surprise me!!

How do you feel about gifts?  Prefer the planned guaranteed gift, or do you like to be surprised?



Is it just me?

Or is time passing faster than the speed of light?  I mean, who can believe Thanksgiving is Thursday?  Thursday!  AGH!  I’m hosting 21 people at my home for Thanksgiving dinner and haven’t BEGUN to plan for the main event.  There are tables to find, napkins to press, glasses to shine to a sparkle, appetizers to create, desserts to crave…  I’m no Martha Stewart (though I secretly crave to be), but I haven’t even donned my thinking cap! 

Okay.  That’s only partially true.  I AM thinking about it because the emails have started pouring in.  You know, the confirmation, “I’m just checking in” emails?

“What’s my assignment?” 

“What time should we be there?”

“Did you know Olin and Sally are driving up from Miami?”

Er–no, that’s news to me.  Licking the pad of my thumb, I leaf through recipes collected from magazines throughout the year (yes, Martha Stewart Living is one of them) wondering, “What’s my assignment?”  Besides being hostess, I mean.  My sister-in-law is preparing to bring an entire roasted pig—something about a traditional Phillipino meal, if I recall.  “It’s the whole pig, Dee.  Is that okay?”

Sure.  No problem.  I’m totally spontaneous and love trying new things! Egads.  Forget that I wait 11 months for leftover turkey sandwiches served up on toasted bread with a little melted Swiss cheese and spicy Dijon.  It’s probably bad for me somehow anyway, I’m sure.  Right?

My other sister-in-law wants to try her hand at a new sweet potato recipe.  “Will anyone care if there are pecans and coconut on the sweet potatoes?”

You mean as opposed to marshmallows baked to a golden melt-in-your-mouth perfection?  Nah, go on with your experimental old self—no one will even notice!  Gulp.  Hardly.  Except for my daughter and I.  We LOVE marshmallows on our sweet potatoes.

“Do you care if I bring Tiramisu for dessert?” asks my stepmother.  “I have a new recipe I’ve been dying to try!”

Made from real pumpkin homemade pumpkin pie

This, from the gourmet chef who keenly resembles Martha and could actually pull off a holiday meal as well as any pro.  “Tiramisu you say?”  My taste buds claw in protest.  “Sure.  Sounds great!”

As I hang up the phone, my shoulders slump.  No turkey, no cranberry, no sweet potatoes with marshmallows and no pumpkin pie?  Well, that about does it.  We’re having a contemporary Thanksgiving I tell myself.  It’s okay.  Time for a change, I try to buoy my spirits, while the old adage pummels my brain:  the only constant in life is change.

Then my mother called.  “Since you haven’t given me an assignment, I’ve decided I’m going to bring collards.”

Collards?  That overly salted southern version of sautéed spinach?  “What about the green beans you always bring?”

“I’m saving those for Christmas.”

Of course you are.  And I’m biting my tongue until New Year’s.  Why? 

Because more than anything else, more than I love the tradition of turkey and cranberry, stuffing and pumpkin pie, I love my family.  I love the time we spend together as a whole, I love the time my kids and I spend preparing the house for company, and I love the idea that through the years, through all the moves and upheaval, we still come together for the holidays.  My core family of siblings and their children and yes, even my mother and stepmother (not to mention my father’s long-term ex-girlfriend before his current wife!) all get together and celebrate the spirit of family togetherness.  I can’t imagine a holiday without them all and I can’t imagine not slaving over a hot iron and crisp linens to make it perfect for them all (like Tracy Soup does it!). 

Nor can I imagine no turkey, cranberry, or pumpkin pie—which is why I’m doubling the offerings this year and baking a small turkey, crushing a cup full of cranberries for saute with brandy while my daughter bakes a pumpkin pie (with a marshmallow topping). Sorry, but some things MUST be eaten on Thanksgiving.  In my house, anyway. 🙂

Does that make me a bad person?  Am I stuck in the mud or just know a good holiday meal when I see one.  How about you?  Doing something different this year?

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